Clearstream net tightens around EADS informant

2nd June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 2, 2006 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Gergorin, a former EADS executive and ally of the French prime minister, is under judicial investigation in the dirty tricks scandal rocking the government, sources close to the case said Friday.

PARIS, June 2, 2006 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Gergorin, a former EADS executive and ally of the French prime minister, is under judicial investigation in the dirty tricks scandal rocking the government, sources close to the case said Friday.

A former associate of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the 60-year-old foreign affairs expert, who resigned last month as a vice-president of the European defence company EADS, is the first to face charges in the case.

After a late-night judicial hearing, Gergorin, who had been in custody near Paris since Tuesday, was placed under investigation — one step short of indictment — for making false accusations and forgery.

He was granted 80,000-euro bail after a judge denied a prosecution request for him to be jailed.

Gergorin has admitted that in 2004 he sent a French judge a list of alleged account-holders at the Clearstream bank of Luxembourg, sparking a complex scandal which escalated into an affair of state.

He told investigators he had acted without informing Villepin — who has been accused of seeking to exploit the lists to harm his arch-rival Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Clearstream letters named a string of French businessmen and politicians including Sarakozy as having received illegal commissions from a defence contract via the bank.

The letters turned out to be bogus and Sarkozy believes he was the victim of a smear campaign ahead of the 2007 presidential elections in which he is a leading candidate.

The investigation to pin down the poison-pen at the origin of the letters has led in recent months to searches at EADS and its subsidiary Airbus, as well as at the French defence ministry and the offices of the secret services.

According to his lawyer, Gergorin refused to reveal the identity of the "secret source" who provided him with the data.

His former colleage at EADS Imad Lahoud — a computer expert widely believed to be the source in question — has been summoned for questioning by the national fraud squad DNIF on Wednesday, sources close to the case said.

Gergorin — who denies having fabricated the lists — says he initially sent them to a French judge probing illegal commissions paid in the sale of French warships to Taiwan in order to ensure they would be fully investigated.

He continued to affirm through his lawyer on Friday that he believed they could be genuine and deserved a more thorough investigation.

"This is a man who remains convinced that the Clearstream affair is a real case, and that the lists correspond to a reality," said his lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins.

The centre-right government has been badly shaken by weeks of claims and counterclaims, fuelled by judicial leaks to the media, exposing a fratricidal battle between its two top figures, Villepin and Sarkozy.

Villepin had to fight off calls for his resignation after being accused of asking a spy chief — on President Jacques Chirac's orders — to secretly check whether the claims against Sarkozy were true. Both Chirac and Villepin deny the accusation.

Retired spymaster Philippe Rondot — whose leaked testimony has implicated both the president and prime minister — was escorted by police before investigating magistrates for further questioning last week but refused to answer their questions.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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